© 2018

The Reasonable Audience

Theatre Etiquette, Behaviour Policing, and the Live Performance Experience

  • Demonstrates the contemporary performance of power differentials within the audience themselves

  • Conducts a nuanced analysis of the language used in online theatre etiquette blogs and articles

  • Critiques the concept of 'reasonableness'


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 1-9
  3. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 11-21
  4. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 23-42
  5. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 43-86
  6. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 87-137
  7. Kirsty Sedgman
    Pages 139-153
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 155-174

About this book


Audiences are not what they used to be. Munching crisps or snapping selfies, chatting loudly or charging phones onstage – bad behaviour in theatre is apparently on the rise. And lately some spectators have begun to fight back…

The Reasonable Audience explores the recent trend of ‘theatre etiquette’: an audience-led crusade to bring ‘manners and respect’ back to the auditorium. This comes at a time when, around the world, arts institutions are working to balance the traditional pleasures of receptive quietness with the need to foster more inclusive experiences. Through investigating the rhetorics of morality underpinning both sides of the argument, this book examines how models of 'good' and 'bad' spectatorship are constructed and legitimised. Is theatre etiquette actually snobbish? Are audiences really more selfish? Who gets to decide what counts as ‘reasonable’ within public space?Using theatre etiquette to explore wider issues of social participation, cultural exclusion, and the politics of identity, Kirsty Sedgman asks what it means to police the behaviour of others.


West End Broadway Black Lives Matter Privilege Cultural prejudice Audience Behaviour Etiquette

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of BristolBristolUK

About the authors

Kirsty Sedgman is Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Bristol, UK, and current British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow. She specialises in audience research and cultural value. Her work investigates how different people experience and find meaning in live performance. How are pleasures and disappointments made meaningful within their lives? And what can all this tell us about the role of the arts in society, as well as the relationship between cultural institutions, power, identity, and place? @KirstySedgman

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Reasonable Audience
  • Book Subtitle Theatre Etiquette, Behaviour Policing, and the Live Performance Experience
  • Authors Kirsty Sedgman
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Pivot, Cham
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-99165-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-99166-5
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XI, 174
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Contemporary Theatre
    Performing Arts
    Theatre Industry


“This book offers an extremely timely intervention into current popular debates about the kinds of behaviour which are deemed appropriate for theatre audiences, and makes a significant, original contribution to the study of theatre and performance. Its engagement with live debates and its analysis will prove useful to scholars for many years to come.” (Dr Helen Freshwater, Reader in Theatre and Performance, University of Newcastle, UK)